Crunchy Bottoms

Striking the caloric balance. Barely.

Monthly Archives: March 2013

New York City 2012: Porchetta

DSC_1616Porchetta – the single, most carnal name ever allowed to grace a meat dish.

So if you happen to name your establishment after the hallowed Italian Roast Pork Of The Gods, I’m going to expect choirs of angels trumpeting my entrance into the shop till kingdom come.

Needless to say, my divine encounter didn’t happen, but I had this greet me, which was pretty darn close:

DSC_1615A bronzed, crackling Belly of The Beast.

I didn’t manage to sink my teeth into any while I was on real Italian soil (remember my shame for not asking for some while at Dario’s?), so this was the nearest thing to redemption, or perhaps the closest thing to self-pity. Either way, I’d rather not ponder further on that.

Pork belly, with boned-out pork loins stuffed in its core, rolled up in alternating layers of fat, meat, herbs, salt, and skin, is tied up with string and roasted till the moist meat yields to the slightest pressure of a butcher knife, here, in an oven here at Porchetta. I know, I know, I can’t help but feel that I’m still short-changing myself at the end of the day, having never tasted Italian Porchetta the Italian way (rhyme!), roasted over wood and hauled up to a wooden chopping board for a feast. But still, this is salty, salty meat, of the most primeval kind. I’m having it.

DSC_1613The star in all this is, of course, the meat. It doesn’t quite matter what else you have with it, or what vehicle you require to get it into your mouth. I went wild for the crackly chunks of skin, like salty nuggets of treasure among fantastically seasoned and flavourful meat. The herbs used were suitably earthy, presumably a mixture of some thyme, sage, rosemary, and garlic. Perfect.  I would have liked more skin. A lot more skin, and a lot more meat. Perhaps a larger sandwich.

Oh just give me the whole hog.

We shared a Porchetta Sandwich ($12), yet given the choice again, I’d pass on the dry ciabatta (which was unfortunate, really) and order up a Porchetta Plate ($15) instead. I also didn’t quite hear a choir of angels, not even a squeak, but I was somewhat pleased nevertheless. I would be content with a healthy serving of porchetta and garlic sautéed greens, which I’m assuming are broccoli rabe or some kind of chard or chicory, of the slightly bitter variety, perfect as an accompaniment to savoury meat.

Porchetta doesn’t have much seating since most locals do take-aways, but there are about eight seats inside. All things considered, this is still a rather pricey sandwich, but it’s probably the closest to Italy that I’ll be.

And if I had the chance to head to New York City again, I’d just live in the Lower East Side. That’s where all the food that you’ll ever need to care about reside. That was an unintended rhyme.

Porchetta

Address: 

110 E 7th St
(between 1st Ave & Avenue A)

New York City 2012: Shake Shack

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This probably needs no further elaboration from me. Even if it does, a quick Google search should suffice. I’m lazy, and weaving together repeated bits of information into a paragraph free from plagiarism is utterly banal.

I just want to get right in to the meat of things, right here, right now. Chop chop. It’s like I’ve got a ticking-time bomb counting down the seconds before I self-implode or start gnawing at my keyboard in desperation for a Shack Burger. I need to get this out of the way because just the memory of the taste of the beef patty can induce seizures and hallucinations in me.

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Gourmet burgers need to get out of the way, for the same reason that souped-up hawker food and deconstructed table staples need to stop since the simple things done right will always, always take the limelight. I’m not carelessly waving aside the time and effort it takes to craft a molecularly-gastronomic xiao long bao (there is much to be respected and admired in such endeavours), but all I’m saying is when I want a burger, I want a burger in the truest sense of the word – beefy, cheesy, unctuous, eyes-rolling-to-the-back-of-your-head-till-you-see-your-brain good.

My first encounter with a Shake Shack burger was the Shack Stack ($8.85USD) – a burger with a single beef patty, a battered and deep-fried portobello mushroom stuffed with melty cheese, a couple of slices of juicy tomatoes, and crisp lettuce. This was after waiting in line for 15 minutes and waiting 10 minutes for a table. Shake Shack is popular, and with good reason. I shared the burger with a friend, and if there was one lesson that I learnt, it was that I was going to get a double burger with the works, fries and all to myself the next time round. And those Yukon crinkle-cut fries were confoundingly crisp, fluffy, yet slightly springy. I don’t even eat fries, but these were criminal.

DSC_1515Behold, the Double Smoke Shack ($8.80USD), a double-beef-patty wonder with melted American cheese, Niman Ranch all-natural applewood smoked bacon, chopped cherry pepper, and Shack Sauce. See, when I make promises to myself, I keep them. Under other circumstances, I’m probably not as resolute.

So here’s why Shake Shack burgers are maddeningly good: it’s all in the beef. For the nutrition diehards, this is 100% all-Angus beef, with no hormones or antibiotics. To be honest, that doesn’t explain its taste, but to some people, that description gives the burger a little extra shine. I’m usually particular about details like that, but now I’m just concerned with the fact that, without a doubt, the beef was grain-fed (that could only explain its richness), freshly ground, moist, chunky, pink, and griddled till crisp on the outside. I’ve heard things from friends about there being bits of liver in the patties, therefore explaining its superior beefy taste, but I haven’t found any information on that. If Shake Shack had the option of just ordering beef patties, I’d do just that, because words cannot completely describe how good they are.

Then there’s the potato bun, vibrantly yellow and softer than brioche. It’s the perfect vessel for drinking up all the delicious beef fat that trickles out of the patties. Things still get messy anyway, so grab a handful of serviettes just in case.

I’m also tiring of spamming adjectives at this point, so if you’re ever at Shake Shack, just order this sterling burger combination. Truth be told, I’m just getting hungry now, and I want to get away from the laptop. The glistening cheesy patties are driving my digestive enzymes crazy.

DSC_1893According to friends, the milk shakes are fantastic. Don’t listen to me, because I’d never order a milkshake in this lifetime, or in any other. I’d rather drink melted ice cream.

As a general rule (both for myself and for anyone reading), if an establishment manages to get me to return more than once, it’s got my golden stamp of approval. I had Shake Shack three times, because if I’m ever going to eat fast food, I’m only going for the best and will go all out.

So if you’re ever in New York, or some of the other neighbouring states, you need to hit up Shake Shack. That’s an order, under oath of reading this post.

I need to clean up the drool now.

Locations and Menu can be found at www.shakeshack.com